Cuban ropa vieja is a flavorful, comforting meal of shredded beef and vegetables that can be cooked in either an Instant Pot or slow cooker. The recipe is SCD, Paleo, Whole30, gluten free, grain free, dairy free, egg free, and soy free!
Ropa vieja was a staple in my house growing up and I find myself making it often for my own family! The beauty of this recipe is just how easy it is to make!
What is Cuban ropa vieja?
In Spanish ropa vieja means "old clothes". It's a dish of shredded beef and vegetables that actually looks like a pile of colorful, old clothes!
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Cuban ropa vieja is a thick, flavorful, almost stew-like meal that's traditionally served over white rice. Since rice tends to exacerbate my autoimmune symptoms, I serve it over cauliflower rice for a delicious low carb option!
Ropa vieja ingredients
- flank steak
- green bell pepper
- red bell pepper
- Spanish onion
- tomato sauce
- Spanish cocktail olives
- ground cumin
- dried oregano
- sea salt
- garlic cloves
Choose a tomato sauce where the ONLY ingredient listed is tomatoes! I always use the POMI brand.
In my opinion, the olives really make this dish and the ONLY one's I use are the pitted Goya Spanish Cocktail Olives. They add a perfect amount of brineness to the ropa vieja. (I've added the link above so you can see which one's I recommend, but you should be able to find the olives in the ethnic food section of your local grocery store or a Latin supermarket.)
How to make cuban ropa vieja in the instant pot
Cut the flank steak into four equal chunks and place in the Instant Pot bowl (photos 1 & 2).
Mix together the tomato sauce, cumin, dried oregano, and sea salt before pouring over the meat (photo 3 & 4).
Add the garlic cloves to the pot and use your hands to ensure the sauce has covered all of the meat (photo 5 & 6).
Close and seal the Instant Pot, then set to manual pressure for 30 minutes (photo 7). While the meat is cooking, slice the peppers and onions into ¼ inch strips and set aside (photo 8).
Once the 30 minute pressure cycle as ended, hit cancel and let the pressure release naturally (photo 9). Use two forks to shred the beef before putting back into the Instant Pot. Add the sliced peppers, onions, and drained olives to the pot. Close and seal the Instant Pot and set the timer to 5 minutes manual pressure.
Allow the pressure to release naturally before carefully removing the lid. Serve warm over cauliflower rice or mashed cauliflower and enjoy!
Actual cook time for this recipe is 35 minutes, however, when factoring in the time needed for the Instant Pot to come to pressure and release pressure, the total time for this dish is just shy of 2 hours. That may seem like a long time for an Instant Pot recipe, however, it's still faster than the 8 hours it takes to cook in the slow cooker!
Speaking of the slow cooker...
How to make Cuban Ropa Vieja in the slow cooker
Add ALL the ingredients into the slow cooker and use your hands to make sure the meat is covered in the tomato sauce.
Cover the slow cooker and allow to cook for 7 ½ hours on high.
Remove the chunks of beef from the crock pot and use two forks to shred. Place the beef back into the pot, stirring to ensure the meat is covered in sauce, and cook an additional 30 minutes.
Super easy, right?! Hope you enjoy!
Here are more Cuban and Spanish inspired recipes to try!
If you’ve made this recipe, be sure to leave a comment and star rating below!
Recipe inspired by years of watching my grandmother's and mother making it.
Cuban Ropa Vieja (Instant Pot & Slow Cooker option)
- Instant Pot
- Slow Cooker
- 2 lbs flank steak
- 1 green bell pepper, cut into ¼ " strips
- 1 red bell pepper, cut into ¼" strips
- 1 small Spanish onion, thinly sliced
- 3 cups tomato sauce
- 5 ounces pitted Spanish cocktail olives, drained
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 6 garlic cloves
- salt and pepper to taste
Instant Pot Directions
- Cut flank steak into 4 equal chunks and place in the Instant Pot. In a small bowl mix together the tomato sauce, cumin, oregano, and sea salt. Pour over the beef and use your hands to mix.
- Add the garlic cloves before covering and sealing the Instant Pot. Cook on high pressure for 30 minutes, then allow the pressure to release naturally.
- Remove the lid from the Instant Pot and use two forks to shred the beef. Place the shredded beef back into the Instant Pot along with the peppers, onions, and drained olives. Cook on high pressure for 5 minutes before allowing the pressure to once again, release naturally.
- Serve warm with your choice of sides. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Slow Cooker Directions
- Place crock pot on low setting. Cut flank steak into 4 chunks and place in crock pot. Add sliced peppers, onions, garlic and drained olives to the crock pot.
- In a small bowl combine tomato sauce, cumin, and oregano. Pour over beef and vegetables. Use tongs to ensure beef is covered in the sauce mixture. Cover crock pot and allow to cook for 7 ½ hours.
- Remove the chunks of beef from the crock pot and use two forks to shred. Return shredded beef to crock pot and stir until all the beef is covered in sauce. Cover and allow to cook for 30 minutes longer.
- Serve with your choice of sides.
- If using an Instant Pot, the actual cook time for this recipe is 35 minutes, however, when factoring in the time needed for the Instant Pot to come to pressure and release pressure, the total time for this dish is just shy of 2 hours.
- In the slow cooker, this recipe takes 8 hours total to cook.
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This recipe was originally published in July 2017 and was updated with Instant Pot directions and new photos in September 2019.